Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Absorbing does not mean good

Three strange things happened today.
  1. I started and completed a book in one day. It's been several months since this has happened and several years since the book was not a short novel (or a children's book), and the day not a vacation. Thanks to a quiet, incredibly boring day, I had the opportunity to read plenty today.
  2. I managed to get so absorbed in my reading that I did not notice the passing of time as I might have otherwise. Bus rides became minutes long. A whole evening disappeared. A long, boring day was made shorter.
  3. I got on the wrong bus home. Lesson learned: if a bus that's supposed to be packed with people is entirely empty, you're probably on the wrong bus.
And here's the strangest thing of all. The book in question (Daphne du Maurier's The House on the Strand) isn't even that good. Absorbing - yes. I started reading the book and just didn't want to stop. Not because I liked the characters (I didn't), not because the story was so remarkably fresh (it wasn't) and certainly not because the writing was uniquely brilliant (okay, but nothing spectacular).

No, The House on the Strand isn't a particularly brilliant book. It's a weird book. In addition to all its plot issues and character problems, it's hard to classify because it's kind of a bit of everything: stiff boring novel with obnoxious narrator, science fiction, historical fiction, drama, murder... the whole shebang. Intense, remotely entertaining reading but not exactly rewarding.

I'm really curious what I'll think of this one after it sinks in a little. Still... what a strange book.


  1. I rarely read like that; I'm not absorbed in a book that easily, and I start to get a little overwhelmed if I read too many pages in one day. It's like I need time to absorb all the details.

  2. I'm finding myself increasingly afraid not of getting on the wrong bus but not knowing it's time to get off the bus because I'm so absorbed in my reading (this week: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer). It's a nice problem to have, I suppose. I have never read du Maurier (for shame), but I"m intrigued by her writing. I'll be curious to see where your thoughts ends up on this one.


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